… The more than 92,000 people who responded either have Cheech and Chong senses of humor or there is a deep concern in America — undetected by the media — about the decriminalization of marijuana, its possible use for medicinal purposes and its potential as a new source of tax revenue.
[...] After taking questions lower on the list, Obama addressed the pot issue head on, noting the huge number of questions about marijuana legalization and remarking with a chuckle, “I don’t know what that says about the online audience.”
“The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said, as the audience in the room applauded and joined him in a laugh.
Andrew Sullivan takes Mr. Obama to task for his “dismissiveness,” then goes on to question whether the President understands who elected him. I’m not even going to try to dissect the meaning of that one.
Now imagine the headlines if Obama had come out for decriminalization in order to promote jobs and help the economy. I’ve gotten emails from colleagues and friends today that pretty much mimic the text: Obama Pot Plan to Pump Up the Economy Seen as Salvation. … Republicans and Democrats Join together – Obama’s Pot Plan Up in Smoke.
This leads me to something George Soros said about President Obama this morning, though it was directed at economics, but is relevant on Obama’s pot reaction today. Soros said Obama is lagging, “because he wants to be the great uniter,” which makes him behind the curve, because consensus lags. An email friend agreed with Soros, then added something even more description through my Facebook page (which logs Tweets): Very true. Visionaries leap ahead, and consensus builders get everyone to agree to move as one. You absolutely *need* both, but you can’t *be* both.
That’s Obama’s biggest problem as far as I can see it, which Soros nailed. It surfaced today. I have no doubt that he would have been creamed in the press and politically if he’d come out for legalization, which was never going to happen. The trouble with Obama’s response is his flippant attitude, encouraging the crowd’s snickering, about a subject that requires leadership. It’s not as if America’s “war on drugs” is working, now is it. Laughter and joking about marijuana is seen as the very “grown up” response, but it dismisses an issue that deserves to at the very least be talked about seriously. Not only did Obama miss that chance today, but he ducked it, instead preferring the safety of the crowd, laughing along with them. It’s not too much to ask that a 21st century American president talk about marijuana and our drug policies seriously, which begins by saying something like: “Now waiting a minute, folks, this isn’t all that funny of an issue. Look at what’s happening at our border. Is the drug war working? When you look at medicinal marijuana there is proof of effectiveness. We need to have a serious discussion… (etc. – insert political cover on not legalizing pot here)”. Any substance that is medicinal, which marijuana certainly is, deserves more attention and consideration, at least in the discussion process. When you look at our problems south of the border, which Clinton has addressed as well, anyone not taking our drug problem seriously is not doing his or her job. He blew it today.
President Obama may please the political mob, helping unite the “war on drugs” crowd, but laughing about the question is anything but inspiring. I never expected him to say he was for legalization, and anyone who thought he would needs to put down the bong. But at the very least he could have taken the opportunity to discuss it seriously. No change here.